As Thanksgiving approaches, many of you are probably busy creating grocery lists, heading to the supermarket and gearing up for the upcoming feast. Meanwhile, some of you are also working on another list – your holiday gift list to debut on the infamous Black Friday. Personally, I've only hit the stores on Black Friday once in my life and swore to never do it again. But, because I may be the minority on this, I've made my own list below. Here are tips to keep you energized and healthy as you maneuver through Black Friday and its crowds:
Eat breakfast. No matter how early in the morning you wake up to start shopping, don't leave without eating breakfast. Start your day with, say, a banana and a tablespoon of nut butter, and the meal will set a healthy tone for the hours to come. And trust me, even if you overate on Thanksgiving, you do not want to skip this important meal.
Pack a snack. Planning ahead is always key to maintaining your energy. Avoid that mid-afternoon lull by packing a snack. Throw a snack-size baggie of almonds into your purse along with an apple or a snack bar, such as Luna, Kind or Kashi.
[Read: 15 Healthy Snacks for Fall.]
Stay hydrated. Another must-have for your shopping trip? A bottle of water. Running from store to store can make you rather warm and thirsty, and sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. So drink up to stay hydrated and avoid unnecessary trips to the food court.
Pick a faraway parking spot. I know you're going to be on your feet most of the day, but why not take advantage of an opportunity to burn extra calories – especially if you're still reeling over all the food you ate the day before? The farther you park your car from the store, the more calories you burn as you walk. And who knows, you might also save some time looking for a parking spot.
Take the stairs. If faced with stairs or an escalator, choose the stairs. I know you might get tired and feel your shopping bags become heavier. But look at the stairs as another fitness opportunity, since you probably didn't have time to hit the gym in the morning.
Wear comfortable shoes. What you wear on your feet is critical how well you handle the stairs and that faraway parking spot. As much as I love stilettos, today is probably not the day to wear them. Choose shoes that have a lot of support and can keep you comfortably on your feet for as long as needed.
Choose wisely in the food court. Because it's going to be a long day, skipping lunch on Black Friday is not a good idea. As much as I may want you to avoid the food court, let's be realistic and assume that you'll wander in there. Your best lunch picks are: a small slice of plain pizza, grilled chicken or turkey sandwich (with mayonnaise on the side), small plain hamburger, salad with grilled chicken (with dressing on the side) or a small smoothie made with low-fat yogurt.
Once you get home, please try not to overindulge while celebrating your success. You don't want to have to return any of your own gifts after the holidays because your clothes are too tight.
Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.